The route is detailed below this descriptive section
Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer Series 147
The route was revised on September 1st 2002 to provide greater detail and partial re-routing. This time of year is a good time to do the walk as there are great quantities of ripe blackberries and hazelnuts along the route. The blackberries vary from very sweet to lovely tart cooking types. It also dries out considerably, compared to wetter seasons. In October, there will be good quantities of sloes to exploit, if you like sloe gin.
Sunday looked as if it could be fine, so we got ready to go walking. Louise's mind was elsewhere, which was exactly where we ended up. We were heading for Plaxtol, but arrived in Hever via the M25 and Surrey.
It was getting too late to go any further so we had a light lunch of chips with homemade carrot and dill soup in the "King Henry VIII Inn." Louise had a low alcohol beer called "Birell" which she like a lot and I had a Shepherd Neame spring hops ale called "Early Bird." Very good too.
With the right map this time and a compass, we strolled off towards Edenbridge. We could hear the sound of a brass jazz band floating across the fields and saw the tallest forget-me nots (about 1 metre high) in the lane by Hever station.
Past the station we saw some damselflies (ischnura elegans) and a banded demoiselle (agrion splendens) in a wheat field.
We passed a large hole in the ground being fished by coarse anglers and entered a farmyard. Before turning off the drive, we saw a large aviary behind us with several barn owls in it, guarded by a dozy black labrador. A little further on we entered the 'private' garden of Oast Cottage with another pond, yet more coarse anglers, the friendly owners and a couple of noisy, but harmless terriers.
Opposite, in a shady bit of the path behind the house at Little Brook St, we saw a hairy caterpillar of the Knot Grass moth (acronicta rumisis) feeding on an alder seedling and a small colony of the Common Spotted Orchid (dactylorhiza fuchii). Beyond Howletts Farm we wandered through a series of paddocks where we found an intact blackbird's egg in the grass, not an unusual find in May or June.
The hedge on the right was covered in honeysuckle and wild roses. As we entered the third field it was covered in buttercups and the view to the right showed an extensive piece of old parkland. In the next field a wild fallow deer was grazing and after watching us in panic slipped into Cobhambury wood to our left. This area is wonderfully ancient looking with views all around with many woods, copses, rough pasture and tiny dells.
Descending to Crippenden Manor, I have to warn you that the ground here is heavy clay and is badly churned up in winter by horses and cattle. This makes it hard to walk in summer with the risk of a turned ankle. We passed a pretty copse on the left before the final gateway which looked as if it could harbour all kinds of wildlife.
The next stage was along a bridleway. The going was wet and mushy due to the horses, but it is through shady woodland following a stream. After a particularly muddy section we joined the drive of Leighton Manor Farm.
There are some historical looking buildings here, but apart from the oast and the farmhouse attached to it, the others seem to be reproductions; the brickwork looks too recent. A lake beneath is home to perhaps a hundred Canada geese. To my mind, the gardens have an over landscaped look to them, not in keeping with the surrounding rolling downland.
The contrast with the lane by Ludwells is worlds apart. The two ponds on either side also contrasted, the one on the left covered in algae and host to four mallard, the one on the right reasonably clear.
As we passed the last tile-hung cottage on the left the views to the right were gorgeous with a series of treelines at different heights and buttercups in the fields below.
Purple flowers I can't identify (rather like bugloss) dot the left of the path to Claydene, where to save time, we crossed over a stile and headed to the main road (B2026 again). As we looked back, the view of a cottage behind us in a dell with it's canopy of copper beech and other trees seemed timeless. The road walk to Pyle Gate farm was shorter than the detour into a lovely valley bottom, but that is where we will go next time.
The footpath after crossing the road is straight on and then curves left giving a view of a beautiful old Dutch barn style cottage built in richly coloured red brick and hung with decorative tiles. It has three gables and two tall double chimney stacks. As the drive descends, it is covered by an arch of tree branches shading it all the way down. On much of this walk and here too, birdsong floats in the breeze above you.
After entering the churchyard at Mark Beech and skirting Bramsell's Farm we descended gently downhill. The path was dry enough now, but would be a pain in winter. Both sides have a scattering of cranesbills (geranium sylvaticum), some unusually white coloured.
In the coppice of Oak Wood, as the path became more open, two tracks of buttercups lined each side, like railway tracks.. The path was wet and we discovered a couple of purple stems of the parasitic Broomrape (possibly orobanche rapum-genistae) family growing about 110 metres from the viaduct.
We stumbled on the "Greyhound" pub for the first time on this walk. It is worth lingering for the Belgian beer and food. Interestingly, they have live piano playing during Sunday lunches and hold evening BBQs too. On July 9th they are having a BBQ with a live jazz band, we might just be tempted. £10 including food.
The finale came slowly and sedately, with sheep feeding in the meadow on the right, smothered with buttercups., rabbits rushing for cover as they have been all through this walk. The fields here are a mixture of buttercups and purplish Timothy (phleum pratense), a good blend of colour.
Altogether 12.5km (7.75 miles). A very good walk and worth repeating.
Coming out of the Henry VIII Inn, turn right onto the road and follow it for 500 metres to a T junction. Turn right at the junction into Hever Rd and then 25 metres on, cross a stile on the left onto a footpath. About 75 metres further, cross another stile into a field on the right. Go half left and look for a stile in the left boundary. This takes you into a copse and then an enclosed footpath which eventually emerges onto a lane. Turn right on the lane to Hever Station.
At the station, cross the railway bridge, take the footpath on the other side and turn sharp right after 10 metres or so. This takes you into a narrow part of a field. As the field opens out, aim slightly left for the left hand side of the wood ahead.
When you get to the wood, turn left to cross the field in a south westerly direction, still on the Eden Valley walk to the left side of a copse which surrounds a large pond. At the field end, cross a stile and another 30 metres beyond take you into a farmyard. Turn right and then follow the footpath signs through the farmyard and just past a mobile home, turn left into a large garden. The right of way is well marked and winds around the house via the drive.
This takes you to a quiet lane. Ignoring a footpath directly opposite, turn left and then after 40 metres and just beyond a cottage, turn left into an enclosed footpath which eventually crosses a footbridge.
Cross the field to the other side, go through a gap in the hedge, turn right and head towards another gap just before a caravan. This takes you into the garden of Oast Cottage. Follow the drive past a large pond to the main road (B2026).
Across the road, enter the drive via a gate with a sign to Little Brook St. Further on, take a footpath to the right of the entrance gates to the house. This path circles around the house and over a stile leads into a field with wonderful views to the right. Keep to the left boundary and about 40 metres on cross another stile. Keep ahead to cross another stile 25 metres on and then aim half left towards a gate in the wooden fence ahead.
Cross a stile by the gate to Howletts Farm and then cross another 15 metres away bearing left. Cross this paddock, heading roughly south and go over another stile onto a tarmac track. Turn left along the lane and cross a stile into another paddock when the lane bends left.
Continue ahead with the hedge on your right to a gate at the other end. Go through the gate and continue in the same direction to another gate. Cross a stile and keep to the same direction with the hedge on the right.
Cross another stile to overlook Crippenden Manor, which is now an equestrian centre. Descend towards the Manor, aiming for the right hand edge of a large copse below.
At the bottom, go through a gate to a lane via a short farm track. Goes left on the tarmac track for 40 metres and leave it to join a bridleway ahead by a long pond. This bridleway is marked by posts with a C sign. The bridleway descends through some awful boggy ground, fortunately passable on one side, and comes out beside a farmyard. Continue to the left through some gates on the route of the bridleway, which now actually becomes the drive of Leighton Manor farm.
The drive winds past the manor house and other buildings and eventually comes out at a poorly surfaced tarmac lane. Take the left option, still on the C bridleway trail along this very pretty lane with some honeysuckle entwined on the left hedge. Where the lane divides, turn right past Ludlows drive, between two ponds.
The bridleway comes to a lane where you cross opposite to a track beside another cottage. Follow the track which curves to the right besides Claydene Farm. Ignore the stile on the left at the bend and continue to another stile on your left, but do not cross over. At this point, look for another stile opposite on your right by a beech tree. Cross this and go half left to a stile by a tarmac lane.
Go past the stile to a track running to the right of the cottage ahead and follow the footpath past it to a stile into a field. Keep ahead with the fence on your left. At the bottom of the field, cross another stile and turn right and then left to follow the right hand boundary.
When you reach a wooden fence with a stile, don't cross over. Turn left before the stile and follow the fence to the end. Turn left to follow this straight section of the boundary. At the end, you will see an opening on the right into another field. Ignore this and instead continue ahead into a small opening which leads to a wooden footbridge.
Cross the footbridge and aim for the roof of an Atcost barn (corrugated asbestos) visible at the top of the field, to the right of a large copse. Beyond the copse, aim for a large oak tree and cross a stile to the left of it. Next, proceed towards the farm to the right of a rusty corrugated iron barn which is to the left of the Atcost barn. Cross a high 3 step stile and continue to a metal gate. Turn left after the gate and follow the track to the main road.
Cross straight over into the drive of Pyle Gate Farm and continue straight ahead. This track then quickly bends left to pass a beautiful Elizabethan cottage and then right, eventually entering a copse.
At the end of the drive, a beech tree stands in a triangle of converging paths. Turn left and take a track above a wooden hut, which emerges into a long wild-looking meadow over a stile. Follow the left boundary for 200 metres and cross a stile over it to another field. Turn right here and follow the same boundary to another stile which enters the churchyard in the village of Markbeech. An obscure footpath to the left of the church entrance drive takes you on to the road opposite Springbank Cottage. Turn left down the road to an enclosed footpath on the right about 110 metres past Fairholme Farm.
This runs straight downhill beside Bramsell's farm with it's string of paddocks to the right and good views to the North. The path goes through some boggy looking ground before veering left to a crossing path in newly planted woodland. Turn right here amid trees and coppice of hazel, willow, birch and sweet chestnut. At the end of this long and narrowing path, you pass under a Victorian railway viaduct and continue for another 150 metres to a lane.
Turn right along the lane for some 70 metres to the Greyhound Pub. Then turn left onto a footpath which runs alongside the entrance to the pub. Follow the footpath to the end and cross a stile on the left. Cross straight over the field. Keep in this direction until near the end of the next field, go through a gap on the right to enter a lane. Turn left and following it to a bend, turn right onto another footpath. This is enclosed with brambles to the left and a copse to the right, and ends in the drive of the Church of England primary school with the King Henry VII Inn before you.